The last baseball game I went to was with the ill-fated Daikyo Dolphins, 18 years ago. I remember the happy dolphin, snarling with shark sharp teeth, and sitting up on the hill with my friends at the old Gold Coast Stadium. I also remembered that the team had a lot of imports - including designated hitters who were fat and sat down after they reached first because they had someone else steal bases and run for them.
So last night, heading to the re-birth of the Australian Baseball League, 10 years after its last demise was a bit of a trip down memory lane... as well as reminding me just how much I had forgotten about baseball, including how much I enjoyed it.
The Brisbane team is called The Bandits - and while you can't tell from the logo (face covered in shadows and a black kerchief), he is actually a Ranga and looks like a textbook illustration of a Cowboy stereotype. Not that it is a bad thing, but it did amuse me that the logo was so dark and menacing in comparison to their mascot. The Bandit himself reminded me of Nicole Kidman as a cowboy. Red hair, super wide smile and a face that doesn't move.
The RNA Showgrounds is the new home for the Bandits. First up, the seats are remarkably uncomfortable. They might be OK for the fireworks at the Ekka, but for 3 hours or 5 hours in a double header - no way. BYO cushion needs to be written on every ticket.
We paid the big $12 each for premium seating, which saw us just to the right of home base, on the side of the visiting team. The seats were unallocated, but thankfully the person I went with arrived early and jagged us a good spot to see the action (not that there were any staff making sure you were going to the right area). The only problem with the premium seats is that you can't see the score board over the dugout of the away team. Now I use the term 'dug out' loosely, as it wasn't dug, but it was certainly out. It was a portable pagoda/marquee that just needed a big gust to blow it up and away. It was pretty cool to be able to see the players though while they were watching their team mates.
Food was priced comparably to what you would expect at any other event of after a night partying. $5 for chips or a hotdog and $8.50 for a burger (They didn't do a bag check - so I brought along sushi which I forgot to eat). The real disappointment though was the merchandise. The tees (well tee as there is no choice) is black with the logo and Bandits written on it. I am not sure why it doesn't say Brisbane Bandits. The tee is also black. Yes black. I guess that goes well with their menacing logo, but I really don't want to be wearing a black tee during the afternoon game, or even in the afternoon heat in Summer as I make my way to the game. Some of the supporting staff (e.g. the younger players who were supporting the teams) had two different white tees. They were brilliant. I would go either of those, though preferably the white with black piping, versus the white with black sleeves. The hat - $50 for the hat? Really? It isn't even SunSmart! Were they hand sewed by ex-major leaguers with golden thread?
The logistics was also a bit haphazard. Maybe they weren't expecting over 1000 people, though they did have over 500 tix presold apparently (1551 was the official count). But when I arrived shortly before 7pm, the line up for parking was insane (this Panda strolled in from her home in The Valley/New Farm area) and there was no one to assist in crossing the road. Some cars were swerving around those that were lined up and having to break to avoid the ppl who were crossing the road. Accident waiting to happen. Another challenge was getting in to the ground. There was no clear signage other than Tickets (to buy) so there was this massive pack of ppl with a combination of passes, print out tickets, looking where to collect their tickets and then the usual tickets. Turned out I was on the wrong side of the pack, as I had an internet print out ticket - which could only be read on the other side of the gate. Signs or staff directing ppl constantly would make a huge difference.
The game itself was pretty fun. It took a while for the nerves to pass and the teams to gel, but it turned into a really good game. Bandits were more consistent in their hitting and their fielding, was on the whole, tighter than that of the Heat. One of the highlights, for me at least, were members tauntingly chanting BAAAAROOOON BAAAAAROOOON over and over as the Heat's opening pitcher (Baron) was preparing to pitch. LOVED IT! The crowd also really got behind the local team, cheering as they were announced as they came up to bat, standing and cheering when we got a runner home. Great atmosphere. The PA system was a bit hit and miss, but you could recognise the songs, people got into the clapping and stamping, they even got up and sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game during the 7th Innings stretch. At the same time though, it wasn't hokey American. It felt like a typical Aussie sporting event, just with Baseball.
LOTS of activities for the kids (they get in free, youth are $6ish)
Awesome value for money $12 for 3 hours is fantastic - and for a double header you get TWO games for one price!
Really easy to get into the game - Baseball isn't that complicated to understand.
On par food pricing.
Lots of Public Transport options (no CityCycle unfortunately)
Home by a decent hour, even on a work night.
Not too many imports.
The logistics and planning.
The inability to see the scoreboard from the "Premium Seats." (I assume they would put the name of the player and stats etc on board while playing - could be wrong but I would like that).
Safety in road crossing.
Spelling mistakes on their home ground sign - they play at the CORAL not the CORRAL.
You don't get to see them play the same team again later in season unless finals.
If you want a really fun evening or afternoon out with minimal cost - you should check out the Brisbane Bandits. Get in with the diehards and have a ball!
EDIT: I forgot to say - Bandits trounced the Heat 8/3 and you can follow the Bandits via The Twitters.
EDIT of the EDIT: I forgot to say how impressed I was with the batting and base work of relief Pitcher Naughton as well as just how fantastically supportive the crowd was of Fukoda as he overcame some early nerves/adrenaline to do some awesome bat work and run like the blazers!